The US president claims he had agreed with his Turkish counterpart on the release of an American pastor held in Turkey for terror-related crimes in exchange for his help with securing the release of a Turkish citizen imprisoned in Israel.

US President Donald Trump reacts to a question during an interview with Reuters in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington, US on August 20, 2018.
US President Donald Trump reacts to a question during an interview with Reuters in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington, US on August 20, 2018. (Reuters)

US President Donald Trump on Monday ruled out making any concessions to Turkey to gain the freedom of a detained American pastor and said he was not concerned that retaliatory tariffs he imposed will have a ripple effect and hurt the European economy.

Trump, speaking to Reuters in an Oval Office interview, said he thought he had a deal with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan when he helped persuade Israel allow Turkish citizen Ebru Ozkan to return home. He had thought Turkey would then release pastor Andrew Brunson, who has been charged in Turkey for aiding terror groups.

"I think it's very sad what Turkey is doing. I think they're making a terrible mistake. There will be no concessions," he said.

Trump has imposed tariffs on imports of Turkish steel and aluminium following the Turkish court's refusal to free Brunson, raising concerns of economic damage in Europe.

"I'm not concerned at all. I’m not concerned. This is the proper thing to do," he said, when asked about the potential damage to other economies.

Trump said Erdogan had wanted the Turkish citizen returned from Israel. Trump and Erdogan met in Brussels for a NATO summit in mid-July where they discussed Brunson’s case and what could be the way forward to release the pastor, a senior White House official said earlier.

TRT World spoke to Giles Gibson who weighed in on Trump's comments from Washington DC.

Turkey had sought US help to persuade the Israelis to allow a Turkish woman who whose passport was being held in Israel. In exchange, Turkey would release Brunson and other Americans being held in Turkey, the senior official claimed. 

Israel, which confirmed that Trump had requested Ebru Ozkan’s return to Turkey, deported her on July 15. Ankara has denied ever agreeing to free Brunson in return.

"I like Turkey. I like the people of Turkey very much," Trump said.

"Until now I had a very good relationship as you know with the president," Trump added, regarding Erdogan.

"I got along with him great. I had a very good relationship. But it can’t be a one-way street. It’s no longer a one-way street for the United States."

Source: Reuters